UN report on Congo election violence could spur accountability
The report could urge Congolese authorities to follow-up with independent investigations and bring perpetrators to justice, writes guest blogger Tracy Fehr.
• A version of this post appeared on the blog "Enough Said." The views expressed are the author's own.Skip to next paragraph
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Last November’s controversial Congolese presidential and legislative elections continue to make headlines, further diminishing a sense of legitimacy or credibility in the Congolese electoral process. Last week, the UN released a report documenting acts of serious human rights violations committed during the elections – including killings, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions – by members of the Congolese defense and security forces in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa.
The report, which is based on findings from a UN Joint Human Rights Office special investigation, documents election-related human rights violations that took place between Nov. 26, 2011, two days prior to the November 28 elections, and Dec. 25, 2011.
The report confirms that at least 33 people were killed in Kinshasa, including 22 by gunshot. It notes, however, “The number of deaths could be much higher as the team faced many difficulties in documenting the allegations of violations of the right to life that were reported.”
Furthermore, the report cites that at least 83 people were injured, including 61 by gunshot. At least 265 civilians were detained illegally or arbitrarily, many of whom, according to the report, were targeted due to their affiliation with the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition party of Etienne Tshisekedi. At least 16 individuals remain unaccounted for.
"We have heard multiple accounts of Republican Guards shooting live ammunition into crowds and of the torture of arbitrarily detained individuals," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. "The authorities must ensure that such grave violations of human rights are investigated, perpetrators brought to justice and that those who remain illegally detained are released without delay."
Colonel Kanyama, a commander with the National Congolese Police (PNC) in Kinshasa’s Lukunga district, known by locals as “death spirit,” was identified in concurring testimonies as a ring leader in the body removal process. According to the report, “[groups arrived in] a PNC vehicle from which officers fired tear gas; the vehicle was followed by a dilapidated vehicle from which marksmen in civilian clothes fired at demonstrators, and then a covered lorry with body collectors.”